By Luke Winkie
October 19, 2014

Last month, we previewed the NFL season by giving a handful of teams a specific album that we think best paired with their upcoming season. We did this because sports are guaranteed to destroy your soul, and music is often your only refuge from the carnage. Also, it gave us a great opportunity to show off how cool our taste in music is, which, as you know, is very important.

Now that hockey season is upon us,  we take a look through the NHL and offer another mixtape. It’s all going to be okay, even when it’s not.

If You’re a Fan of the L.A. Kings: No Age – Nouns

There’s constant pontificating about the lack of a big-budget, festival-stomping indie-rock band of which Los Angeles can be proud. The Airborne Toxic Event have been ignored, discovered and reviled in the space of about one year, and despite what Pitchfork might tell you, nobody spends any time thinking about Local Natives. So, sorry Angelenos, you’re still stuck with those two kids from No Age and their ripped-apart noise rock that will never, ever, EVER cap off a Coachella tent.

But maybe, if you’re a fan of the L.A. Kings, this serves as the ideal rallying cry. You’re caught between the bloated legacies of the Dodgers and Lakers, and while you still sell out the STAPLES Center every night, you’ll never capture the imagination of southern California as a whole. Instead you’ve got your cult. A stingy, fundamentally sound hockey team that rode a wave of rough-and-tumble defense and analytics-approved puck control to an accidental dynasty. A tiny sliver of the world knows the life-affirming No Age shows that rock The Smell every couple of weeks. Who cares if everyone else stays ignorant?

If You’re a Fan of the New York Rangers: Jay Z – The Blueprint

One of the many things that make hockey beautiful is the reliance a team can have on its goaltender. Mediocre quarterbacks can offload responsibility onto a strong running game (Matt Schaub) or a particularly transcendent receiver (Matthew Stafford,) and we’ve seen plenty of basketball teams make up for their lack of star power with great ball movement and psychic defense, but when you think of the 2014 Rangers you think of exactly one man.

It goes without saying that Henrik Lundqvist does not have the same cult-of-personality that 2001 Jay Z did, he’s far too stately and Swedish for such self-involvement. But when the one thing keeping your team a title contender is the health, confidence and mojo of one man? I don’t know. I love The Blueprint because it’s a textbook on self-promotion, a quiet affirmation that the rest of the universe waits on your every flex. Please let this be the year in which Lundqvist starts feeling himself publicly.

If You’re a Fan of the Colorado Avalanche: Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe

They’re just so cute! A shiny, sparky product bursting at the seams with hooks, ideas, and some devastating lyrical turns, completely rewriting 2013. You couldn’t blame us for falling in love! Anything that arrives this fully formed and entertaining will always capture our imagination. I mean, sure, Chvrches are a Scottish electropop band and the Avalanche are a hockey team that made an unexpected playoff push, but the symptoms remain the same.

The big question is whether or not it’s a fluke. There’s a future out there where Chvrches go on to become the next New Order, but that takes some precise puzzle pieces. There’s already a lot of handwringing involved with the less-than-stellar start to the Av’s 2014 campaign. Once you rip open your soul for thunderous applause, where’s the next stop? Conor Oberst has been trying to figure that out for a decade now. The first step forward for a franchise excising itself from the doldrums, let’s hope it’s written in the stars.

If You’re a Fan of the San Jose Sharks: Spoon – They Want My Soul

I’ll admit that this isn’t the perfect analogue. I mean, nobody was calling for Britt Daniels’ head when he and his bandmates released yet another fantastic indie-rock album this year. Spoon own one of the most consistent catalogs ever, which is something that absolutely deserves a proud legacy. In hockey? Not so much.

I mean, it’s not like there’s no accomplishments here. You’ve put a competitive, interesting product on the ice for years! There’s a President’s Trophy banner hanging from the rafters! But… yeah. Pitchfork, Spin, Rolling Stone? They’ve already hollowed out that perfectly snug #7 spot for Spoon on the December albums list, much like the graceful conference quarterfinals exit the Sharks will inevitably make again this year, capping off yet another hopeful season with a tidy six-game farewell. Back to the studio again, another 12 songs of refined really-goodness. Much like Spoon, the San Jose Sharks will never change your life.

If You’re a Fan of the Detroit Red Wings: Lil Wayne – The Carter IV

Toronto is a hockey town. Montreal is a hockey town. Detroit is a place where the hockey team is marginally more popular than the basketball team, arguably more popular than the baseball team, and consistently in the shadows of the still-mediocre football team. Yet, it's the only city in North America that consciously advertises itself as HOCKEYTOWN.

Look, I’m not trying to dump on frosty Midwestern ethics, it actually doesn’t bother me that the Cardinals advertise themselves as “THE BEST FANS IN BASEBALL” or that cheeseheads consistently manage to remind the unwashed masses that “you know, the fans own our team.” But whatever, at least the latter is demonstrably true. “HOCKEYTOWN” is nebulous, “HOCKEYTOWN” is meaningless, there is no evidence that Detroit is more of a “HOCKEYTOWN” than Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, or hell, Edmonton. “HOCKEYTOWN” is a false flag.

You know, Lil Wayne is still calling himself the best rapper in the world. It’s been years, (almost a decade!) since anyone would take that claim seriously, and he’s even said as much that he doesn’t care all that much about music anymore. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s his personal brand; a rote, reactionary statement he’ll instantly repeat for the rest of his life. I’m not saying there’s a direct parallel, but thinking of this year’s Red Wings definitely got me thinking about late-period Lil Wayne, and that’s probably not a good sign.

If You’re a Fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets: Pulp – Different Class

You know, Pulp were around a lot longer than people realize. They formed in Sheffield back in ’78, and put out their entirely ignored debut album It in 1983. They toiled for decades through indifferent crowds and dead-end record labels until that luscious Britpop wave hit in the mid-90s, where suddenly an already 30-sometihng Jarvis Cocker got to unleash his game-changing pop vision on the world at large. It’s rare for a band to stick around for three decades before finally getting its shot, but Pulp pulled it off.

So the Columbus Blue Jackets haven’t won a playoff series in their entire existence as a hockey team. This, my friends, seems like a very promising year. What do you call it when a team that’s suffered through a career’s worth of mediocrity finally has something immediate to be excited about? I don’t know, but I think “the Pulp moment” ought to be adopted.

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